Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Johnny California: The Oscars 2023

 by JB

During the Warner Brothers 100th anniversary commercial, when the drone camera did that impressive 360 degree pan around the famous water tower, I could see my condo! With me inside, watching the Academy Awards.

NOT REALLY: I was just funnin’ you all. And speaking of fun, how about this year’s Oscars? Little controversy... no bodily assault... what a breath of fresh air! I resisted the temptation to drive the hour into LA and sit in the bleachers outside the Dolby Theater to see the stars arrive live. I remember bleachers in high school being very uncomfortable... plus I am waiting to be nominated before I attend the ceremony.

THE OPENING: I thought Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue was very funny, but every joke that seemed even vaguely edgy was greeted by a weird nano-second silence followed by uncomfortable laughter. These celebrities clearly want to be celebrated and have fun... and nothing else.
SPOILER ALERT: I predicted that Everything Everywhere All at Once (EEAAO) would sweep, and I was more-or-less correct: It won seven out of its eleven nominations. It was fantastic to see Jamie Lee Curtis win Best Supporting Actress, especially when she pointed out that both her mother and father had been nominated but did not win (Mom Janet Leigh, Best Supporting Actress for Psycho in 1960; and Dad Tony Curtis, Best Supporting Actor for The Defiant Ones in 1958.) Hollywood loves to celebrate its own. Curtis also gave a shout-out to “Genre Movie Fans.” This is why we love Jamie Lee.

HEY: I completely forgot that Jenny Slate appeared in EEAAO as Debbie the Dog Mom! That means Slate appeared in two Oscar-nominated films this year, including Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, which should have won Best Animated Feature!

Both films also feature googly eyes. Which explains this pre-production still from the next Avatar...
A PASSING THOUGHT: Although I loved his performance, I thought Ke Huy Quan won the Oscar because Academy voters wanted him to repeat his magnificent Golden Globes acceptance speech. Arguably, I thought the Golden Globes speech was better.

HEY! COCAINE BEAR: Cocaine Bear director Elizabeth Banks showed up with Cocaine Bear, which was terrific. I kept expecting the costumed bear to remove his costume head, revealing a celebrity. Colin Farrell? Robert Downey Jr.? Randy Quaid? It was a lost opportunity. (BTW: The film Cocaine Bear is a lot of fun. It reminded me of a Seventies drive-in movie.)
A QUESTION OF AESTHETICS: Why did Rhianna, wearing a beautiful, floor-length black gown, stand on A BALE OF HAY to sing her “Best Song” nominee? I came back from the bathroom and thought my wife had switched the channel to Hee Haw.

THE MAGIC OF THE MOVIES: The actors who sang “Naatu Naatu” in the film RRR performed the song live on the Oscar telecast... but they were accompanied by two dancers recreating the scene from the film. It was as if the Academy was winking at audience members familiar with how musical numbers are actually produced, saying “Well, of course, in the movie those two pre-taped their vocals—NO ONE CAN DANCE LIKE THAT AND SING AT THE SAME TIME!"
PEOPLE WHO DIED: The “In Memoriam” montage was predictably moving, but perhaps anticipating that viewers were ready to pounce on the Oscar producers for who they left out, the segment was followed by a narrator suggesting we “visit the website on the screen” to see more in-depth tributes. I’m wondering why Cannibal Holocaust director and renowned turtle murderer Ruggero Deodato was left out! Seriously, the missing included Anne Heche, Albert Pyun, Tom Sizemore, Paul Sorvino, Topol, Leslie Jordan, and (as Kimmel himself pointed out) original Little Rascal Robert Blake.

BEST SPEECH OF THE NIGHT: “Naatu Naatu” composer MM Keeravani, singing improvised lyrics to the Carpenters’ song “Top of the World” to accept his award.
BEST DINNER OF THE NIGHT: The delicious tilapia my lovely wife fixed for dinner. Yum. Eat your heart out, Wolfgang Puck!

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS: Because I am a card-carrying film nerd, two of the highlights of the night were when Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane camera and an old-school Steenbeck editing bench were displayed on stage during the presentation of the Best Cinematography Oscar and Best Editing Oscar, respectively. Okay, full disclosure: I was in the bathroom for the editing bench, but my lovely wife told me all about it. The Academy needs to embrace its history more; too many of the montages presented Sunday night unfairly favored the last twenty years. I can’t wait to see the Academy break its own arm patting itself on the back when Oscars turns 100.
SHOUT-OUT TO A SHOUT-OUT: As a retired public-school teacher, I loved loved loved the moment when multiple Academy Award winner Daniel Sheinert listed the teachers who had encouraged him in one of his acceptance speeches.

JUST MY TWO CENTS: It is truly disheartening that this year's “Best Make-Up and Hairstyling” Oscar seemed to be more like “Best Fat Suit” Oscar. Don’t get me started on THAT.
A FINAL THOUGHT: Although Banshees of Inisherin was my favorite film of the year, I was glad something as fresh and bold as EEAAO won so many Oscars. This bodes well for filmmaking in the future. I get disheartened when backward-looking, derivative crap wins. I’m looking at you Green Book, The Artist, The King’s Speech, and A Beautiful Mind. Blech.

I am sure that it will be an honor just to be nominated!


  1. To be fair, EEAAO couldn't have swept the oscars. Two actress from the movie were nominated in the same category, which Jamie Lee Curtis won😎

    1. I'm sorry; I misspoke (miswrote?) I meant sweep every category.

  2. So we all know now that it’s not the show producers but an Academy committee that decides who gets in the In Memoriam. But it is crazy that they are okay getting criticized every year for leaving people out so they can save 3 minutes in a three and a half hour show.

    1. Yes, in our digital age, this shouldn't be so hard to get right; both the TCM "In Memoriam" and the SAG Awards "In Memoriam" were much better. You can access both on those on the YouTube machine. The Academy "In Memoriam" also left off Stella Stevens, Melinda Dillon, Henry Silva, Cindy Williams, David Warner, and Philip Baker Hall!

    2. Chris, my thoughts exactly. And it can be considered very offensive to leave someone out. So why every year.

  3. Woot! great write up, comments, and thoughts all around JB. Thanks!

  4. I was really hoping Matt Damon was in the bear suit...

    1. Yes! And it all makes sense: he bought a zoo.